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March 10, 2007

"Bitter Medicine for Madison Schools":
07/08 budget grows 3.6% from 333M (06/07) to $345M with Reductions in the Increase

Doug Erickson on the 2007/2008 $345M budget (up from $333M in 2006/2007) for 24,342 students):

As feared by some parents, the recommendations also included a plan to consolidate schools on the city's East Side. Marquette Elementary students would move to Lapham Elementary and Sherman Middle School students would be split between O'Keeffe and Black Hawk middle schools.

No school buildings would actually close - O'Keeffe would expand into the space it currently shares with Marquette, and the district's alternative programs would move to Sherman Middle School from leased space.

District officials sought to convince people Friday that the consolidation plan would have some educational benefits, but those officials saw no silver lining in having to increase class sizes at several elementary schools.

Friday's announcement has become part of an annual ritual in which Madison - and most other state districts - must reduce programs and services because overhead is rising faster than state-allowed revenue increases. A state law caps property-tax income for districts based on enrollment and other factors.

The Madison School District will have more money to spend next year - about $345 million, up from $332 million - but not enough to keep doing everything it does this year.

School Board members ultimately will decide which cuts to make by late May or June, but typically they stick closely to the administration's recommendations. Last year, out of $6.8 million in reductions, board members altered less than $500,000 of Rainwater's proposal.

Board President Johnny Winston Jr. called the cuts "draconian" but said the district has little choice. Asked if the School Board will consider a referendum to head off the cuts, he said members "will discuss everything."

But board Vice President Lawrie Kobza said she thinks it's too early to ask the community for more money. Voters approved a $23 million referendum last November that included money for a new elementary school on the city's Far West Side.

"I don't see a referendum passing," she said.

Links: Wisconsin K-12 spending. The 10.5M reductions in the increase plus the planned budget growth of $12M yields a "desired" increase of 7.5%. In other words, current Administration spending growth requires a 7.5% increase in tax receipts from property, sales, income, fees and other taxes (maybe less - see Susan Troller's article below). The proposed 07/08 budget grows 3.6% from 333M+ (06/07) to $345M (07/08). Madison's per student spending has grown an average of 5.25% since 1987 - details here.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

The spectre of central city school closings was what prompted some of us to resist the far-west side school referendum. Given the looming energy crisis, we should be encouraging folks to live in town, not at the fringes, strengthen our city neighborhoods. Plus, along with the need to overhaul the way we fund schools, we need a law requiring developers to provide a school or at least the land as a condition to development.

UPDATE 2: Susan Troller pegs the reduction in the increase at $7.2M:

Proposed reductions totaled almost $7.2 million and include increases in elementary school class sizes, changes in special education allocations and school consolidations on the near east side.

Other recommendations include increased hockey fees, the elimination of the elementary strings program and increased student-to-staff ratios at the high school and middle school levels.

UPDATE 3: Roger Price kindly emailed the total planned 07/08 budget: $339,139,282

Posted by Jim Zellmer at March 10, 2007 6:32 AM
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